What’s The Best Gibson Acoustic Guitar?

Elvis Presley, Neil Young, Gillian Welch. Cheryl Crow, Taylor Swift, The Beatles. All of these artists have played Gibson acoustic guitars, and it’s no surprise.

As one of the biggest names in the guitar world, Gibson knows exactly what makes a great guitar and while the roar of a Les Paul might be most people’s first association with the brand, their acoustic guitars have been at the core of the global music industry for decades.

From full-size auditorium filling country acoustics to slimline modern electro-acoustics, Gibson makes something for everyone. But which Gibson acoustic guitar is best? 

As with all musical instruments, when you ask what is best you open up a whole can of worms. For one thing, the best guitar for you is an incredible subjective concept.

Your hands may love the slim neck of a Stratocaster and find anything chunkier off putting, or you may only be comfortable with a parlor-size acoustic guitar rather than the heft of a dreadnought. 

As a consequence, this article is going to cover a few classic Gibson acoustic guitars, their plus points, and any negatives, to help you choose the Gibson acoustic that is the best for you.

After all, you are the one who’s going to be playing it! We have also constructed a buyer’s guide which will help point you towards the right Gibson acoustic guitar for your needs. Let’s dive into some classic guitars. 

OUR TOP PICK

The Gibson Hummingbird is a classic that almost requires no introduction. In production since 1962, the Hummingbird was a favorite of the Rolling Stones, featuring heavily on their records thanks to both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards having it as their acoustic of choice.

Since then, the Hummingbird has been spotted in the hands of luminaries such as Michelle Branch, Shuggie Otis, and Thom Yorke, which is a glowing testament to the quality and versatility of this classic guitar. 

A traditional square-shouldered dreadnought, the body of the Gibson Hummingbird is composed of a Sitka spruce top with mahogany back and sides. As a tonewood, mahogany gives your playing a full richness, and the Sitka spruce adds sparkle and resonance to the top end.

This combination of woods allows for a big sound that doesn’t lack anything in terms of clarity, making the Hummingbird an excellent choice for a whole range of playing styles and musical genres. Chords have body, sustain,and great clarity, and individually picked notes sing out beautifully. 

The neck of the Hummingbird is a solid Gibson classic, featuring a round-profile mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard with 20 regular-profile frets. Fret markers are classy mother-of-pearl split parallelograms. Gold plated closed-back Gotoh Keystone tuners and a bone nut finish this build off with classic reliability and style. 

The Hummingbird is also equipped with a fantastic set of simple electronics. An under-saddle LR Baggs pickup with volume and tone controls gives you beautiful amplified sound that is easy to dial in and control. While it may not be the most complete suite of electronics available in a Gibson acoustic, it sounds great and is all this guitar needs. 

Pros:

  • Huge sound - the Gibson Hummingbird has a big, rich voice that, while it’s incredibly capable of being played delicately, almost begs to be played loud. 
  • Classic dimensions - this is a dreadnought, and it feels like one; it’s big, it’s bold, and it’s going to make itself heard. 
  • Simple but excellent electronics - the LR Baggs under-saddle pickup renders a true interpretation of the Hummingbird’s sound when amplified, making this guitar a great choice for any gig. 

Cons:

  • Large body - yes, it’s going to be large, it is a dreadnought after all. But for some, the classic shape is too bulky. 
  • No cutaway - access to the upper frets is tricky, but this guitar isn’t necessarily built for fretboard adventuring anyway. 

EDITORS CHOICE

Gibson SJ-200 Original

Descended from a truly legendary lineage of Gibson Super Jumbos, the SJ-200 Original is a big guitar with a big personality. In constant production since 1937, you’ll have found this guitar around the necks of country legends like Emmylou Harris, rock stars such as Pete Townshend, modern pop superstars like Chris Martin, and The King himself, Mr.  Elvis Presley.

To be in such exalted company for nearly 80 years, you’ve got to bring something pretty special to the table, and this guitar does just that. 

As the name suggests, this guitar is large. Super large, in fact. Built to be played in front of legions of fans, you get big volume, big tone, and a super-clear voice. Handling folky fingerpicking, country twanging, and full-throated picked chords with equal ease, the SJ-200 is your go-to for all occasions.

A singing top end and tight, focused bass response mean that wherever you go on the fretboard, you’re home.

Crafted from Sitka spruce with maple back and sides with the exceptional build quality you would expect from Gibson, you instantly know you’re in the presence of a classic. The round neck profile is comfortable and reassuring, with a beautiful rosewood fingerboard featuring mother-of-pearl crown inlays.

The nut and bridge saddles are real bone, and the mustache bridge is a thing of beauty in itself. Gotoh Keystone tuning machines keep you in perfect pitch. 

The SJ-200 also has an LR Baggs Session VTC pickup and preamp, which cuts down on feedback (essential with such a sizable body) and delivers an incredible plugged-in tone. Whether you’re recording mic’d up or plugging into a PA, the SJ-200 sounds phenomenal and will deliver an excellent performance. 

Pros:

  • Massive tone - clarity, punch, definition, and character. The SJ-200 has all of these in heaps, giving you a classic sound that’s endlessly versatile. 
  • Classic craftsmanship - built to carry a peerless legacy, you get Gibson quality that makes this an instrument to treasure. 
  • Fantastic plugged-in sound - the LR Baggs electronics bring out the best of the SJ-200’s unplugged tone while damping feedback so you can perform with confidence.

Cons:

  • Super Jumbo - as the name suggests, this is a big guitar. It’s so big that Emmylou Harris, who played the SJ-200 extensively and is pictured with one on the cover of her album Angel Band, had a smaller model, the L-200, designed for her precisely because of its size! 

BEST VALUE

Introduced shortly after the Hummingbird, the Dove was designed to challenge Martin in the dreadnought market. Another square-shouldered dreadnought like its stablemate, the Dove is a thoroughbred players’ instrument.

With beautiful, eye-catching ornamentation, prominently featuring its namesake on the pickguard, the Dove immediately attracted interest, only for those who played it to discover that it was a phenomenal-sounding instrument too. 

In terms of tonewoods, the Dove uses the same configuration as the SJ-200, with a Sitka spruce top and flame maple back and sides. The same clear, articulate top-end and focused, punchy bass response is present in the Dove, but with the tighter mid-range that you would expect from a smaller resonant cavity.

Where every frequency rings with almost equal space in the SJ-200, the Dove is punchier when flat-picked, and slightly more low-mid-heavy when finger-picked. The neck is once again the classic Gibson mahogany 20-fret neck, with mother-of-pearl parallelogram block inlays. 

Once again featuring the superb LR Baggs Session VTC electronics system, the Dove sounds as great plugged in as it does acoustically. The controls are easily accessible, tucked just inside the sound-hole, so making adjustments on the fly is a piece of cake. 

The Gibson Dove has a glowing pedigree, finding its home with a whole host of legendary musicians, but its principal association is with Elvis. Elvis loved the Gibson Dove, and his signature model is one of the most popular in the Gibson acoustic range. 

Pros:

  • A perfect blend - if you like the sound of the SJ-200 but the size and shape of the Hummingbird, the Dove represents the best hybrid of the two. 
  • Great acoustic or electric - with a beautiful, full sound in the room and a great pickup and preamp, the Dove can fulfill all of your performance and recording needs. 
  • Aesthetically pleasing - the Dove looks as good as it sounds, and the iconic dove on the pickguard is a real touch of class.

Cons:

  • Grover tuners - unlike the Hummingbird and the SJ-200, the Dove doesn’t have Gotoh tuning machines, opting instead for Grovers. Some people express a clear presence for Gotohs, and it isn’t clear why Gibson has decided not to use them here. 

RUNNER UP

Time to take a trip to blues territory with the Gibson L-00. This guitar has a reputation for being the sound of acoustic blues but has also found favor as a parlor-sized instrument for players who don’t want to bring a big box along with them.

The L-00 has woven a  thread through history in the hands of Jacques Brel, Woody Guthrie, and Bob Dylan, and is also a mainstay for modern artists such as Annie Clark of St Vincent and Billboard sensation Olivia Rodrigo. 

As a pick-up-and-go guitar, the L-00 has a tone to die for, and all the playability you would expect from a Gibson. Don’t be fooled by its diminutive proportions, because the L-00 produces every inch of the big Gibson sound.

Built predominantly from mahogany for the back, sides, and neck, and with a Sitka spruce top underpinned by Gibson’s traditional hand-scalloped cross-bracing, when you play the L-00 you are rewarded with a rich tone with exceptional top-end clarity.

When finger-picking, the L-00 is responsive, mellow, and clear, with an appealing bite when you dig in for accents. Used with a flat pick, there’s tons of sustain, beautiful note separation and clarity, and a warm body to the sound. 

A massive plus with parlor guitars is the comfort they offer the player. Sure, you get a shorter fretboard, with only 19 available here and no cutaway to assist you in reaching the upper four, but you trade that upper-reaches versatility for a small, light body that makes playing in the root and mid positions a breeze.

This is the sort of guitar that you want to just pick up for a quick jam, or to work through a songwriting idea that’s popped into your head, or to take over to your friend’s house on a whim. 

In terms of finish, the L-00 that is currently manufactured by Gibson has a real blend of the vintage and the modern. The first feature to call out is the fact that it is sealed with a nitrocellulose lacquer rather than the more common modern polyurethane lacquer.

This is era-appropriate to when the L-00 first emerged onto the scene and is a more breathable finish that looks great while adding to the guitar’s tonal properties. In stark contrast, the L-00 has a Graph Tech TUSQ nut, saddle, and bridge pins, a hard-wearing modern synthetic bone that provides excellent sustain. 

In common with the rest of the Gibson acoustics reviewed in this article so far, the L-00 comes with the LR Baggs VTC under-saddle pickup and preamp for incredible tone and control when plugged in onstage. So much more than meets the eye, the L-00 is a real pocket rocket. 

Pros:

  • Parlor-sized guitar - a small body doesn’t mean a small sound. The L-00 is an all-rounder in a small, comfortable package. 
  • Vintage finish - the hand-sprayed nitrocellulose lacquer is both attractive and lets the wood of the guitar ring true. 
  • Modern durability - TUSQ hardware, LR Baggs electronics; this guitar has vintage vibes but sacrifices none of the things that make modern guitars reliable.

Cons:

  • Less upper-fret access - between the round-shouldered body and the 19-fret neck, you might struggle to play chords much above the octave. However, everywhere you can play on this neck is a joy!

RUNNER UP

Designed with the solo artist in mind, the Gibson Songwriter Standard EC is an electro-acoustic that delivers gorgeous tone unplugged and through the PA due to Gibson’s impeccable craftsmanship.

A modern classic that has graced stages with Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, Jonny Buckland of Coldplay, and Taylor Swift, the Gibson Songwriter Standard EC is proof positive that electro-acoustics are a valuable addition to any guitarist’s arsenal. 

A marked departure from the three acoustic guitars reviewed above, the Gibson Songwriter Standard EC sports a smaller square-shouldered dreadnought body with a neat cutaway for upper-register access. Hand-scalloped cross-bracing adds body to your tone, and the round mahogany neck is a delight to play.

The classic Gibson acoustic Sitka spruce top gives your playing sparkle and attack, and the rosewood back and sides provide articulate warmth and a radio-friendly tone. 

This is not meant as a negative at all; this guitar sounds like a pop machine, sitting beautifully in a mix or as a solo backing. Chords ring with clarity and expression, open-string voicings shimmer, and arpeggios chime. The Gibson Songwriter Standard EC is made to be played, a true workhorse guitar for the busy musician. 

Adding to the versatility of the Gibson Songwriter Standard EC is its Fishman Prefix Plus-T pickup and pre-amp. This is composed of an under-saddle pickup and a side-mounted preamp featuring controls for bass, contour, treble, and brilliance, and enables you to shape your tone quickly and precisely.

Changing the battery on a Fishman system like this is also easy because the battery cover is mounted externally, making it a case of simply removing the old one and dropping the new one in. The Fishman Prefix Plus-T also has an integrated tuner, which is a godsend onstage. 

Pros:

  • Sounds great plugged in or unplugged - this electro-acoustic sacrifices nothing when played unplugged, but is built to deliver incredible tone through its Fishman pickup and preamp. 
  • Cutaway - access to the upper frets is easy thanks to the cutaway dreadnought body shape, opening up new voicings for chords and more room for runs. 
  • Rosewood body - snappier than mahogany, the rosewood body of the Gibson Songwriter Standard EC sounds like you would want a modern acoustic to sound.

Cons:

  • More modern looks and sound - this isn’t your vintage Gibson, though it is packed with classic features like nitrocellulose lacquer and hand-scalloped cross-bracing. If you’re looking for those old-fashioned vibes, this might not be your best choice. 

RUNNER UP

What's The Best Gibson Acoustic Guitar2

Gibson is a heritage brand, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t keep innovating. The Gibson G-45 is a competitively priced small round-shouldered dreadnought with a Sitka spruce top and walnut back and sides. The top is supported by scalloped cross-bracing, and it is finished with satin nitrocellulose lacquer. So far, so Gibson; everything you would expect from a Gibson acoustic is present and correct. 

However, this is a truly modern acoustic guitar. The neck is made from utile, an African hardwood that shares some characteristics with mahogany. You may also see it listed in some places as Sipo, or Sipo mahogany. It is a durable and light hardwood that makes a perfect neck for this guitar.

The fretboard is made from ebony, making for a fast-playing and forgiving surface. The neck profile diverges from the classic round Gibson shape in favor of their advanced response neck, promising easy, comfortable playability. 

The biggest innovation with the G-45 is the Sound Port. This is another sound-hole on the upper shoulder of the guitar which delivers the sound of your playing straight back to you, exactly as your audience hears it.

This offers you as a player instant feedback, like a passive monitoring system, which is quite a unique experience. Hearing your playing so immediately and intimately opens up whole worlds of scope for fine-tuning your performances. 

The Gibson G-45 is a pure acoustic, meaning that unlike even the vintage-styled L-00 and SJ-200 you do not get a pickup and preamp. However, the G-45 Studio does add this feature for a little extra cost. As a pure acoustic, the G-45 is responsive, clean, and focused with great playing dynamics and clarity across all frequency ranges. From delicate finger-picking to those moments when you need to dig in with a pick, you get a great Gibson sound for a very, very reasonable price. 

Pros:

  • Gibson quality at a great price - the G-45 is a very reasonably priced entry into the world of Gibson acoustic guitars and sacrifices nothing in terms of quality. 
  • Comfortable, easy neck - this is a neck that’s built to be easy to play, still offering that reassuring Gibson feel but with a modern twist. 
  • Sound Port - hearing yourself playing as your audience will is a great experience, whether you’re just starting out and learning or aiming to perfect your technique as a more seasoned guitarist.

Cons:

  • Not your classic Gibson - many players look to Gibson to scratch their vintage itch, owing to the company’s long and esteemed heritage. The Gibson G-45 is a fine addition to that legacy, but might not be what you would come here for. 

Best Gibson Acoustic Guitar Buying Guide

You’ve had a chance to look through some of our favorite Gibson acoustic guitars. Hopefully, we have given you some ideas of which would be best for you.

Just to leave you with all of the information you could possibly need, we’ve put together a brief buyer’s guide with some of the main things you need to think about when you’re looking for the best Gibson acoustic guitar. 

What's The Best Gibson Acoustic Guitar3

Vintage or Modern?

Gibson’s range encompasses instruments that hark back to the early 20th Century and the classic eras of the ‘50s and ‘60s, and also modern guitars designed with today’s musicians in mind.

Even the vintage designs come with modern features, so you get the feel and vibe of a classic with the playability of a box-fresh guitar. Whatever you are looking for, Gibson has a model to suit you. 

Going Electric?

Gibson produces variations on most of the guitars in its product line. This means that even if you get your hands on the perfect guitar in a shop but it’s a pure acoustic and you need a pickup, there’s a strong likelihood that if you ask or have a look online you will find that they also offer a version with electronics. Gibson only uses the best onboard electronics, so you can plug in with confidence. 

Size

One of the biggest contributors to whether or not you are going to love a guitar is the body size. As you can see from our favorites above, Gibson makes guitars that range from the biggest of super-jumbos to the neatest of parlor guitars.

The best thing you can do is to try before you buy, but if you are adding a guitar to your stable and you already know that you prefer something on the larger size, you can use that knowledge to tailor your buying process. 

David Williams
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